The former Miss India is just back from walking the red carpet for her debut film Miss Lovely, showcased in the global film fest’s Un Certain Regard section. A t2 chat with Niharika Singh.
How would you describe the Cannes experience?
It was fantastic. When we heard that our film would be showcased at Cannes, we were so excited. We had shot for the film three years ago and at Cannes, the cast and crew had a reunion of sorts. I got to watch my film at Cannes for the first time and the experience was so surreal. I don’t know anyone who has managed to make it to Cannes with their very first film. We had a photo call for Miss Lovely… I walked the red carpet…. There were so many people who saw my film… it was overwhelming! I met quite a few prominent filmmakers and got to watch some amazing films. I thought I was in Disneyland!
When you shot for the film three years ago, did you ever think it would make it to a platform like Cannes?
My director Ashim (Ahluwalia) always knew that he wanted to make a film that could be showcased internationally. Miss Lovely has been made to cater to a global audience. When I had read the script, I knew that it was a very intelligent film and had the potential to reach out to an international audience. While the film was being made, I kept hoping that it would get selected for a platform like Cannes. But that was just a dream, a fleeting thought… I had no idea that it would come true like this.
What feedback did you get for Miss Lovely at Cannes?
It was crazy there… we were just running around… there was the screening… we had so many interviews… there were hundreds of people who were coming up to say how much they liked the film. At that time, everything seemed so surreal… I didn’t know what was happening! It was only when I came back to India and read the reviews and interviews did I realise how much the film was appreciated at Cannes.
But yes, I do remember this incident that happened just before the screening. There was this French guy who came up to me with a bundle of my pictures. I don’t know how he had got all those pictures of mine, but he had painstakingly put them all together and made an album of sorts and he wanted me to sign it! This is just my first film and to have someone react like this to me was so special, so overwhelming....
Once the film was screened, there were many who came up to say how much they liked me. The fact that such compliments came to me in a place like Cannes made it all the more special.
Did the fact that you went to Cannes with your film and not to showcase a brand give you a special high?
Oh yes, oh yes! It really, really did. Cannes is the mecca of filmmakers and films and a movie has to have substance to go to Cannes. If anyone gets invited to Cannes, it should solely be on the basis of their films.... I don’t want to run down anyone who goes there for brand endorsements because at the end of the day, Cannes is a huge platform, but I felt happy that I was chosen to go there for the right reasons. All said and done, Cannes is a festival to celebrate cinema, not fashion!
What made you opt for a gritty film set in the Mumbai underbelly as your debut?
I won’t take any credit for this; it was actually destiny at play. After Miss India, I got a lot of opportunities and I knew that I wanted to do films because even as a model, I loved being in front of the camera. I had also done music videos and films was a natural progression. I did do a Bollywood commercial film (Sarfarosh maker John Mathew Matthan’s A New Love Isshtory opposite Himesh Reshammiya!) and even a Kannada film, none of which ever released. I was young and confused and I just wanted to do everything that I could. When Ashim’s script came my way, I thought it would turn out to be a brilliant film and I couldn’t say ‘no’. I am so lucky that Miss Lovely turned out to be my debut.
How difficult was it to shoot Miss Lovely, set in the murky depths of Mumbai’s C-grade film industry?
It would have been tough if I didn’t understand the script. But from Day One, I knew what the film was about and where it was heading. I understood that this was not the usual, run-of-the-mill kind of film and as an actress, I would need to approach it differently. What really made the process of shooting the film a lot easier was the sync that the actors had with the director. Right from the beginning, me, Nawaz (Siddiqui), Anil (George) and Ashim were on the same page. I had my maximum scenes with Nawaz and we both knew exactly how to approach a scene. Irrespective of the fact that we all come from completely different acting backgrounds — Ashim is a documentary filmmaker, Nawaz is an NSD graduate and an extremely intelligent actor and I am a model, a former Miss India — we had this strange understanding and chemistry that really worked for the film. There was never any conflict… it was a smooth process, although the script was so difficult to make into a film.
Why haven’t you signed any more films?
After I shot Miss Lovely, I actually lost my way a little bit (laughs). I knew that anything else that I pick up had to match up to it. I wouldn’t say I was confused… let’s just say I grew up a little! (Laughs.) Anyway, I have never ever been in a desperate rush to do films. Obviously I want to do films eventually, but I also want to do a film appreciation course first.
All my energy is now focused on the novel that I am writing. It’s too early to talk about it. It’s just that I have a story to tell and I am trying to tell it through a book.
The Khans were there. So were the Kapoors and the Kumars. Even Priyanka Chopra put aside her differences with Karan Johar (left) to be present at his 40th birthday bash this week. However, many eyebrows were raised when John Abraham chose to give Bollywood’s biggest party of the year a miss, especially when Karan was the producer of Dostana, one of John’s biggest hits.
The whisper doing the rounds is that John had plans to be at the bash, but pulled out at the last minute when he heard that ex-flame Bipasha Basu would also be there. “John and Bipasha haven’t been on talking terms since the split and John wasn’t comfortable coming face to face with her with almost the whole of Bollywood looking on hawk-eyed,” revealed a source.
According to reports, John also stayed away because he didn’t want girlfriend Priya Runchal to be exposed to the film frat just yet. “Karan had invited both John and Priya but John knows that Priya is a very private person and he wasn’t going to put her in a tight spot by walking into the party with her,” added the source.
Let’s just hope John sent his b’day wishes across since Karan is also the producer of Dostana 2, starring John yet again.